Category Archives: Fire Updates

How to Help California Fire Victims | Corona, CA

By Julia Jacobs | Nov. 11, 2018

Three wildfires in California have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed thousands of homes. So far, dozens of people have been confirmed dead and hundreds more are missing.

Vast expanses of land have been scorched in Northern California by the Camp Fire — the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history — and in Southern California by the Woolsey and Hill Fires.

Here’s how you can help.

Remember to do your research on a charity’s reputation for using donations effectively. Charity Navigator is a good source to consult. Also, remember that sending money is almost always the most efficient way to help in a disaster, according to the Center for International Disaster Information, part of the United States Agency for International Development. If volunteers on the ground end up with a mountain of donated goods, they’ll have to spend time sorting through them rather than buying exactly what’s needed.

For nonprofits that are seeking donations, click here.

There are also multiple crowdfunding efforts for victims of the California fires. GoFundMe has organized a page that catalogs the relief efforts in Northern and Southern California. It includes links to donate to families who have lost their homes.

Google is collecting donations to help those affected by the wildfires in Southern California. It will funnel the donations to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which will distribute the money to local nonprofits.

Additionally, Airbnb has launched a program that asks people to open their homes to those affected by the fires. Until Nov. 29, the company is allowing residents to mark their homes as a place for evacuees and aid workers to stay for free.

For more information about how to help, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona, CA and all surrounding areas.

Dozens of Massachusetts Homes Exploded. A Gas Expert Weighs In. | Corona, CA

by RACHEL GUTMAN

SEP 14, 2018

WCVB / AP

Investigators still don’t know what happened, but there’s one likely explanation.

Late Thursday, dozens of explosions erupted in three towns in northern Massachusetts. As many as 70 fires, explosions, and suspected gas leaks were reported to state police, with at least 39 homes affected in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover. One person was killed when a chimney collapsed on his car, and at least 25 more people were reportedly treated for injuries.

In a statement, Columbia Gas said a total of 8,600 customers will be without service until safety teams can ensure that their homes and businesses are leak-free.

A widespread series of explosions like the one in Massachusetts is “really rare,” says Robert Jackson, a professor of energy and environmental science at Stanford University. Jackson’s studies focus on the environmental impacts of natural gas, and he has mapped thousands of gas leaks in cities around the country, including Boston. He told me that such an event is “unprecedented in recent years,” since explosions are usually isolated to a single building.

Jackson is not involved in investigating the Massachusetts explosions, but he was able to offer some insight into what could have caused such a strange, dramatic incident. The most likely explanation, he says, is the one most reports have speculated: Pipelines in the towns became suddenly over-pressurized. In the same way that high-voltage power lines traverse hundreds of miles before breaking off into lower-voltage tributaries in neighborhoods, natural-gas delivery systems consist of both long-distance, high-pressure pipelines and local ones that are only nominally pressurized and deliver gas into homes. Neighborhood pipelines are usually designed to withstand two to three times their normal operating pressure, but any increase makes gas more likely to escape.

“I can’t imagine another explanation for this event than a flush of pressurized gas,” Jackson says.

If local lines indeed were suddenly inundated with high-pressure gas, Jackson says, that could result in an explosion in one of two ways. First, the pipes themselves could explode. Second—and more likely, according to Jackson—excess pressure could have caused gas to leak out of pipes and valves and into homes, where it could be ignited by a pilot light and send whole buildings up in flames.

In most cases, according to Jackson, such rapid pressurization would be caused by a failure at a valve that separates high- and low-pressure pipelines. As for what would lead to such a failure, Jackson says, it could be that “somebody made a mistake. To flip the wrong valve, leave a junction open. Human error is the most common source of natural-gas explosions.”

Columbia Gas’s website announced an improvement campaign just a few hours before the explosions began, though no evidence has yet linked the explosions to pipeline updates or botched repairs. (A spokesperson for Columbia Gas did not respond to a request for comment.)

A flush of gas could also occur if older valves leak or break. In 2015, Jackson and his colleagues found that cities like Cincinnati that replaced their aging pipelines had 90 percent fewer gas leaks a mile than older cities like Boston that relied on older, cast-iron pipes. Across the country, Jackson says, many local pipelines are more than a century old—including in Boston, the closest major city his team studied to Thursday’s explosions.

Even though natural-gas leaks are fairly common, serious consequences aren’t. From 1998 to 2017, 15 people a year, on average, died in incidents related to gas distribution in the U.S. “Significant incidents”—those that do things such as cause an injury or death, result in at least $50,000 of damage, or lead to a fire or explosion—happen about 286 times a year.

That might sound like a lot. But then again, the streets of Boston carry an average of four gas leaks a mile.

 

The West Is on Fire… Again | Corona, CA

By Umair Irfan 

Updated Jul 27, 2018, 11:36am EDT

Wildfires have almost become a year-round threat in some parts of the western United States. From Colorado to California, it feels like the blazes from last year never went out.

Flames ignited forests and chaparral virtually nonstop in 2017, and the year ended with record infernos in Southern California that burned well into 2018.

Officials don’t refer to “fire seasons anymore but rather to fire years,” Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center, told me in an email.

The NIFC reports that this year, wildfires have burned more than 3.9 million acres, about 11 percent above the average since 2008. At the moment, 13 states are reporting large fires, from Alaska to New Mexico.

On Thursday, the Carr Fire erupted in Redding, California, sending a 100-foot-high “wall of flame” through the town. The fire has already engulfed more than 44,000 acres, skipped over the Sacramento River, and is just 3 percent contained as of Friday morning. The blaze has killed two firefighters and prompted mandatory evacuations for many of the city’s 92,000 residents.

The Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park has meanwhile burned more than 45,000 acres, an area more than 51 times the size of Central Park in Manhattan, since igniting on July 13. More than 3,400 firefighters from as far away as Virginia are fighting the blaze. As of Friday, the fire was only 29 percent contained and had led to the death of one firefighter, Braden Varney.

Further south, in San Bernardino National Forest near Los Angeles, the Cranston Fire ignited Wednesday morning forcing more than 3,000 people to evacuate. Authorities believe an arsonist is behind the 11,500-acre blaze.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared states of emergency for Shasta County, where the Carr Fire is burning, and Riverside County, where the Cranston Fire continues to rage.

Meanwhile, the Substation Fire near Portland, Oregon, has torched 79,000 acres and forced 75 households to evacuate. It’s just one of 160 wildfires across Oregon, though most fires are currently in the southern part of the state. As of Thursday morning, the Substation Fire is 92 percent contained. And in Colorado, wildfires have already ripped through more than 175,000 acres, and the ensuing rains have brought mudslides along the freshly denuded landscape.

And it’s likely to get worse. Many parts of the US are facing a higher than normal fire risk this year.

It’s an alarming echo of last year’s devastating fire season, which charred more than 10 million acres, making it one of the worst years in more than three decades. California suffered its largest wildfire ever, the Thomas Fire, which engulfed an area 1.6 times the size of New York City.

As firefighters take on new blazes and homeowners rebuild in the ashes, here are some things worth knowing and what we can expect for the remainder of the fire season.

Some states are already seeing worse fires than last year, and the risks remain high

A key thing to remember is that wildfires are ordinarily a natural phenomenon. Many parts of the US are primed to burn, and fires are vital to the ecosystem, restoring nutrients to the soil and clearing out decaying brush. Trees like the Jack pine only release their seeds after a fire. Plants like buckthorn need fires to germinate.

But the destruction from the gargantuan blazes we’ve seen in recent years is hardly natural; human activity is clearly making it worse.

For one thing, humans start the vast majority of these fires, upward of 84 percent of them. California officials have blamed a dozen of last year’s fires on Pacific Gas and Electric’s power lines. Utilities were also blamed for fires in Nevada. Arson was suspected for fires in Northern California.

Another factor is how humans use the land. People are increasingly building closer to the wilderness, blurring the line between suburbs and shrubland. That means that when fires do burn, they threaten more lives and property. Meanwhile, active fire suppression in some areas has allowed dry vegetation to accumulate, so when embers ignite, it causes a massive conflagration.

And of course, the climate is changing, mostly due to human activity. Rising average temperatures have led to western forests drying out, increasing the risk of fires. There are 129 million dead trees in California alone. Across the state, the total number of fires is trending downward, but the size of fires is going up.

But in Southern California’s fires, like last year’s Thomas Fire, scientists don’t see a climate signal just yet. The region is hot and dry year-round. Drought can actually kill off the grasses and shrubs that would ordinarily burn. As a result, the fire risks haven’t demonstrated an association with rising temperatures so far. However, modeling shows that by 2050, climate change will increase the size of burned areas in Southern California.

Despite the significant swaths of the country that went up in flames last year, there is still plenty of fuel around, even in areas that ignited last year. “Although [2017] was the second highest number of acres burned since 1960, it is a fraction of the more than 1 billion acres of vegetated landscapes in the U.S., so there is a lot of land left to burn,” said NIFC’s Jones.

In fact, new vegetation has already sprung up. That’s because the winter brought much-needed moisture to the drought-stricken West, despite an unusually warm winter.

Scott McLean, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), explained that the precipitation spurred fast-growing grasses and shrubs. The searing, record-setting heat that followed this year dried out plants, leaving many parts of the West coated in tinder.

In California, fires have already burned more land and Cal Fire has initiated 200 more fire responses now than it did at the same point last year.

The NIFC reports that Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and California all face “above normal” fire risks throughout much of their territories, as this map shows:

There are still drought conditions in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona that will likely persist even after seasonal rains, and lightning from the storms threatens to ignite new wildfires. Fire risks are lower in northern Montana and Washington state due to a wet spring.

As with last year, the fire potential will increase in the early fall along coastal Oregon and California as fast-moving seasonal winds pick up.

Even as we get better at fighting wildfires, they’re becoming more costly and dangerous

Firefighters are trying to apply some of the lessons learned from last year’s blazes. Cal Fire says it has managed to contain the vast majority of fires in its jurisdiction to less than 10 acres. But with more development in fire-prone regions, it’s getting harder to balance the demands to protect property against the need for the land to burn.

Fire officials are working with communities to explain why controlled burns are a necessary step to prevent more dangerous fires, but it makes homeowners antsy. “When you put fire on the ground, people get a little concerned,” said Cal Fire’s McLean. “It’s still an education process.”

It would also help to have policies that discourage building in the highest-risk areas. That’s difficult when the population is growing in many parts of the West and some of the cheapest land for new housing is in those regions poised to burn.

So far, this year, it seems that many of the same mistakes that have put people at risk are being repeated. In California, some residents are rebuilding in the same fire zones where homes burned last year, spurred in part by insurance payouts.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said referred to the Substation Fire as being in Southern Oregon. The fire is in the northern part of the state.

For more information about fire season, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona and all surrounding areas.

Corona’s Canyon Fires: The Aftermath | Corona, CA

By Rob McMillan / Friday, March 23, 2018

CORONA, Calif. (KABC) — As the bulk of a rain-heavy storm moved out of the Inland Empire, mandatory evacuation orders in parts of Corona were lifted Thursday.

The evacuation orders were issued Wednesday afternoon for neighborhoods that were affected by the Canyon Fire, which charred about 2,600 acres between Anaheim Hills and Corona.

The brush fire started in September and threatened mostly homes in the Corona area before fire officials finally gained control of it.

Many burn areas across Southern California were under threat of possible mudslides or debris flows and flooding as a strong storm moved into the region. The heaviest rainfall was expected Thursday morning into early afternoon and then it would clear in some areas.

Light and scattered showers were expected throughout the evening and into Friday morning, but a threat of storm damage would no longer be an issue.

For more information about fire safety, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

Accepting patients from Chino, Ontario, Redlands, Moreno Valley, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, Fontana and all surrounding areas.

How the Rain Is Affecting Our Fire Season | Corona, CA

(CNN):  It’s called an “atmospheric river” — basically a river in the sky — that could unleash catastrophic amounts of rain.

And the major storm is barreling right toward the fire-scarred regions of Southern California, with a potential to trigger flash flooding, mudslides and significant debris flow.

The heaviest rainfall is expected Wednesday evening through Thursday, and officials have already ordered mandatory evacuations in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Up to 2 inches of rain have fallen in the burn scar areas since late Tuesday and the worst in Santa Barbara County is expected after dawn Thursday.

“That’s a concern when you put in the heaviest rainfall anywhere in the United States and put it right over Southern California, directly over burn scars,” CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.

“Some of the areas could see 6 inches of rainfall over 36 hours. That’s six to eight months of rainfall in 36 hours, right over what would be a significant Thomas Fire burn scar region,” he said.

The Thomas Fire, the largest fire in California’s modern history, ignited in December and burned about 281,900 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Santa Barbara County officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order affecting about 30,000 people in extreme and high-risk debris flow areas ahead of the strongest storm of the season in that region. The mandatory evacuation there was effective from noon Tuesday for burn areas near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fires.

The amount of rain and the intensity are enough to cause flooding even without the impact of the recent fires.

“We could experience localized flooding and road closures, which are not isolated to the burn areas. The threat of rock falls, mudslides and debris flow is high,” said Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

Mandatory and voluntary evacuations also took effect at noon Tuesday in Ventura County.

Los Angeles County officials ordered evacuations in areas affected by the recent Creek and La Tuna Canyon fires starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and warned other residents living in areas affected by recent fires to prepare for evacuations and street closures.

The large and powerful storm system across the eastern Pacific Ocean is expected to bring periods of moderate to heavy rain through late Thursday or early Friday.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow channels that transport water vapors outside the tropics. The one that’s saturating California is known as the Pineapple Express, because it brings moisture from the tropical Pacific near Hawaii and can wallop the West Coast with rain and snow.

The National Weather Service predicts rainfall rates between a half to three-quarters of an inch per hour, with rain totals of 5 to 10 inches in the foothills and mountains. This total is significantly more than during the January 9 debris flow, when there were 3 to 6 inches of rainfall across the region.

CNN’s Joe Sutton, Paul Vercammen, Monica Garrett and Madeline Scheinost contributed to this report.

For more information about fire season protection, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

Accepting patients from Chino, Ontario, Redlands, Moreno Valley, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, Fontana and all surrounding areas.

Modern Homes are Burning Eight Times Faster

First responders report that fires recently are burning hotter and faster, likely due to the increase in synthetic furniture and home decor.

Synthetic furniture and decor have been popular because they are cheaper than natural ones. However, most synthetics are made of petroleum (like gasoline), which could result in your house going up in flames in minutes. When synthetics burn, the chemicals released can replace oxygen in the body within two to three minutes of exposure, choking out anyone nearby.

An experiment tested the burn time of two rooms, one furnished with synthetic furniture and the other with natural materials, and demonstrated the difference between synthetic and natural materials.

The room with synthetic furnishings was full of flames and smoke within minutes. Flashover, or floor-to-ceiling flames, occurred as quickly as three minutes and forty seconds. On the other hand, the room with natural furnishings took almost half an hour before flashover. The company that conducted the experiment concluded that modern home fires burn eight times faster.

As a result, firefighters are under more pressure and in more danger than ever before, not only from the greater intensity of the flames but also from the chemicals released when synthetics are burned. In fact, cancer has recently overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death of firefighters. The exposure to these chemicals affects not only firefighters but homeowners and others in the building when the synthetics are burned.

Some tips to protect your home and the people inside it in case of a fire include:

  • Avoid open concept homes and close doors when possible. In the case of a fire, a closed door between you and the fire can keep temperatures down and provide more than double the oxygen to breathe compared to if the door was open.
  • Make sure your fire protection systems are up-to-date and fully functional. For inspections, maintenance and repairs of your fire protection systems, contact CJ Suppression at (951) 735-5560 for a free quote.
  • Create an escape plan for your home and ensure that all members of your family are well-versed in what to do in the case of an emergency.

Calming Winds: The Thomas Fire Update | Corona, CA

By Melissa Etehad and Ben Poston / Contact Reporter

December 17, 2017 10:35PM  Reporting from Montecito, CA

Firefighters took advantage of light winds in Santa Barbara County late Sunday, mounting an aggressive attack directly on the massive Thomas fire’s western face a day after powerful gusts pushed flames toward homes along the coast.

Crews were in place to protect homes should a wind shift send the wildfire toward neighborhoods overnight, but authorities said that’s unlikely.

“The fire’s burning in open country right now, which is away from homes, which is exactly where we want it,” said Capt. Rick Crawford, a Cal Fire spokesman. Even so, he said, “We’ll always be in the ‘ready, set, go’ mode.”

Just a day earlier, stronger-than-expected winds kicked up and triggered an epic battle to save homes along the coast. Two homes in the Montecito hills were destroyed and about a dozen structures damaged during Saturday’s flare up.

But firefighters were able to protect about a 1,000 structures because of advanced preparations, officials said. Evacuations were also lifted for the Carpinteria area.

As of Sunday evening, the third-largest wildfire in modern California history was at 270,000 acres and 45% contained, officials said.

Fueled by Santa Ana winds, with gusts topping 70 mph early Sunday in some valley and mountain areas, the blaze burned a massive swath from Santa Barbara to Ventura. By late Sunday, winds had dropped down to 3 to 5 mph, with gusts of about 10 mph, Crawford said.

“We’re in pretty good shape for the time being,” he said.

The fury of monster fire leaves residents no choice but to flee

In Ventura County, firefighters concentrated their forces in the hills above Fillmore where the wildfire stayed within containment lines. Their efforts were hampered during the day by dry conditions combined with low humidity and winds of about 35 mph.

Red flag conditions were forecast in the mountains and valleys of Los Angeles County through Sunday evening as well as parts of Ventura, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Winds are expected to stay calm Monday and Tuesday at 10 to 20 mph, which will “look tranquil” compared with the weekend gusts, said Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Those calmer conditions should allow firefighters to focus on more defensive work such as bulldozing fire lines and dropping fire retardant. The humidity levels should also increase during the early part of the week — another help for fire crews, Hoxsie said.

But it will be a short respite, as strong winds and low humidity are expected to return on Wednesday in Santa Barbara County and Thursday in Ventura County, Hoxsie said.

In advance of the weekend flare-up, firefighters smothered portions of the Santa Barbara County hills with hundreds of thousands of gallons of fire retardant to keep embers from igniting spot fires. Some hillsides were intentionally denuded above Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria, including in Romero and Toro canyons, to limit the potential damage.

Santa Barbara County Fire Division Chief Martin Johnson told reporters Saturday night that the aggressive prevention measures had paid off. Hundreds of homes were spared.

“Earlier this evening I was asked the question, ‘How many structures did we lose today?’ ” Johnson said. “That’s the wrong question to ask. The question to ask is, how many did we save today?”

As the winds began to die down in Santa Barbara early Sunday, fire officials said they were going to take advantage of the moment and extinguish smoldering hot spots in the Montecito area.

Rusty Smith, 57, said he fled his home on Gibraltar Road about 1 a.m. Sunday. He stayed with a friend nearby and set his alarm clock to wake him every 90 minutes so he could see if the flames had reached his house.

But firefighters managed to save Smith’s house and about two dozen others in the neighborhood.

“I wasn’t worried. You know when things are out of your control,” Smith said Sunday afternoon, as he swept debris from the driveway of his neighbor’s house. “But we know we were fortunate.”

Resident Lucas Merrick returned Sunday around noon to find that his home also had been spared. As helicopters dropped water on smoldering vegetation, Merrick said his hillside property is much more than a home for him and other residents.

“There’s a spiritual element,” he said. “That’s why people decide to live here.”

Not all homes were spared. On Sunday, a multimillion-dollar house on Park Hill Lane in the Montecito hills was still burning. From the outside, the Spanish-style structure appeared intact, but the interior was almost completely gutted.

All that remained was smoldering ash.

Despite the loss or damage of some homes in the Montecito hills, fire officials emphasized that more homes were saved than lost.

“This is the worst fire condition I’ve seen in the last 32 years,” said Capt. Dave Zaniboni, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. “It could have been a lot worse. We could have easily lost firefighters or had more homes destroyed. It was a great effort by firefighters.”

Orange County Battalion Chief Mike Summers huddled with his team of firefighters gathered in the parking lot of Cold Springs Elementary School to discuss the day’s plans. The fire had reached into the backyards of some homes on Saturday, and officials wanted to make sure that they were no longer threatened.

He said his crews would be patrolling along Coyote Road to clean up any hot spots.

Despite the long hours, Summers said his team was in good spirits and well-rested. He’s been on the fire for about a week and expects to work through Christmas.

“Many of the firefighters have kids and families waiting at home,” he said. “But we are here for the community. Our first priority is the community, and then our second is family waiting back home.”

Humboldt firefighter Jake Illiam, who was among the crews working in Montecito, said he was also missing his family. He said his daughter will turn 1 this week.

“Today was her birthday party,” he said.

Fire officials said that 8,300 fire personnel have been mobilized to fight the Thomas fire — the largest mobilization of fire crews to fight any wildfire in California history. Firefighting costs so far stand at $110 million.

By Saturday afternoon, Santa Barbara County appeared to be in recovery mode as evacuation orders were lifted for areas around Carpinteria.

For more information about wildfire safety, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

Accepting patients from Chino, Ontario, Redlands, Moreno Valley, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, Fontana and all surrounding areas.